This bad habit is increasing your risk for tendinitis and other running injuries—and it has nothing to do with your form
Despite how hard you train or how many goals you smash, bad runs happen. And one slow day isn't going to hurt, but how you react to it could. In a new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Swedish researchers followed elite athletes as they trained over the course of a year and found that a whopping 71 percent of them suffered from injuries. Not surprising, considering the crazy and intense training schedules athletes have to adhere to. But the researchers didn't find any connection between injury rate and schedule severity. Instead, they found that the athletes who blamed themselves for the off day were the most likely to get hurt. (Yikes! Watch out for these 5 Beginner Running Injuries (and How to Avoid Each) too.)
How? Say you're feeling slow and sore during your run and you aren't keeping your pace goals. Then you start to feel a twinge in your knee. There are two ways you can respond: You can either beat yourself up for being so sluggish and push through the pain no matter how your body feels, or chalk it up to an off day and ease up so you don't do serious damage to your knee.
"Self-blame causes the athlete to push on when they should have chosen to allow the body rest," says lead study author Toomas Timpka, M.D., Ph.D. Proof they should've eased up? Almost all of the injuries Timpka's team found were due to overuse like tendinitis or stress fractures.
But is blame always a bad thing? It depends on the situation, says Timpka. Maybe you're struggling through your marathon miles because you didn't stick to your training plan. In that case, taking the blame can serve as a motivator going forward. (Find out more in The Power of Negative Thinking: 5 Reasons Why Positivity Gets It Wrong.) But when blaming yourself becomes your default way to deal, it topples into dangerous territory.
How do you deal with off days then? According to Jonathan Fader, Ph.D., a sports psychologist who works with elite athletes, it's all about restructuring the way you think. Rather than repeating to yourself how much you suck, come up with a new mantra, like "I'm giving mile 18 everything I've got!" It's not about pretending you're the best, it's about positively acknowledging the work you are doing.
"Human minds have a very sophisticated bullshit meter," says Fader. "Your self statement has to be based on something that's actually true." If you're especially hard on yourself and can't come up with a single thing you've done right, here's a universal truth: You want nothing more than to get this run over with and you're going to give it your all to make that happen right now, in this moment. (Also, try these Pinterest-Worthy Workout Mantras to Power Every Part of Your Life.)
Be kind to yourself and your body will thank you.